The Nutcracker


The Nutcracker ballet. Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Libretto and choreography by Yuri Grigorovich with ideas from Marius Petipa. Filmed in 2010 at the Bolshoi Ballet. Stars Nina Kaptsova (Marie), Artem Ovcharenko (The Nutcracker Prince), Denis Savin (Drosselmeyer), Alexey Loparevich (Stahbaum), Olga Suvorova (Mrs. Stahlbaum), and Pavel Dmitrichenko (Mouse King). Pavel Klinichev conducts the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and Children Chorus. Set and costume design by Simon Virsaladze; lighting design by Mikhail Sokolov; directed for TV by Vincent Bataillon; produced by François Duplat. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: F

This recording was made about the time a massive, years-long renovation of the Bolshoi Theater was winding down. During this time the Bolshoi Ballet stayed in operation,  but it would appear the renovation project adversely affected current performances. In this Nutcracker, the star dancers perform well. But in every other way, this title is a dismal disappointment.  

So what is lacking? The directing is wooden, formalistic, and outdated. There is a much marching back and forth, which is nothing but a way to avoid having to actually dance. All this marching is infected throughout by a prancing, preening, grotesque manner that seems to be characteristic of Russian ballet.

The choreography is dead and boring throughout the whole show. There are rarely enough dancers on the stage in Act 1 to be convincing. In the Christmas Party the dancers hardly act at all, and there is no interaction among the dancers to give the show dramatic life. There are no children in the production, and the parts for boys are played by women.  The snowflakes all carry those cotton balls which you see mostly in Russia. The choreography of Act 2 is slightly better, but all the "country dances" in the divertissement section are performed by only two dancers.

The sets, costumes, and (very few) props look ludicrously cheap and ugly throughout. The set for the Christmas Party is empty and cold. The sets for the Land of Snow and for the Land of Sweets are the worst we have seen in a Blu-ray recording. No semi-pro Mouse King in the U.S. would be willing to dance in the stupid-looking Mouse King costume used here.

To top it off, the video is atrociously fuzzy in many scenes. Ovcharenko is often seen dancing in his bright red costume against a white or gray background. Then one can see a strange video artefact:  a thick and very noticeable black outline created on the display around the red-suit image as Ovcharenko moves about.

In view of all the better HDVD Nutcracker shows we now have, this Bolshoi effort is not worthy of consumer consumption, which means the grade for this is F.  (We wonder if this show was originally intended for local consumption only or for some kind of "tourist trap." )

We don't add screenshots under our policy not to bother with pictures if the grade is D or F. Finally, there were several YT clips about this show, all SD and very poor quality.  What a disappointment!